For our next installment of #MDInterviews, we get to know South Dakota’s alternative rock band, VALLEYHILL.
Featuring an eclectic alternative rock vibe, VALLEYHILL are actively writing, recording, touring, and even filming official music videos for their new songs, such as “Wake Forest” and “Adam&Eve,” both of which were recorded for their new EP, “Solarity.” Recently, VALLEYHILL performed “Wake Forest” on the Sioux Falls, South Dakota news channel KDLT after the song’s music video went viral on Facebook. The song “Adam&Eve” echoes similar love-story sentiments of “Wake Forest,” though more atmospheric and nostalgic rather than upbeat and confident, proving that the band is mature enough to write a diverse range of songs, yet maintain a consistent sound throughout.
MD: First off, thanks for sitting down with us. Many may not know, you were formerly known as Avian Sunrise – why the change?
VALLEYHILL (Bryan): Thank you so much for having us; it is our pleasure. Correct - we were Avian Sunrise for about 5 years, and then AVIAN for 8 months; and as of November 2014, we transitioned to VALLEYHILL. I think it was just one of those things that happened so organically that it’s tough to pin the change on one thing. It was part legal (we discovered some other bands out there cropping up with the name Avian), and the rest was internal – we were growing and the music was shifting, so a fresh start seemed fitting.
MD: South Dakota isn’t often thought of when talking about music - how is the music scene in Sioux Falls & do you feel you pull inspiration from your surroundings when creating music?
VALLEYHILL: Haha, yeah it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. I have seen quite a few articles saying it’s one of the coolest fastest growing college towns out there – so there’s definitely promise. The music scene has been so tough here, to be honest. When we started both the hip-hop scene and the metal music scene were the majority, so our style of music (at the time piano rock) wasn’t really in the pocket. But it’s been cool to observe what happens when you just continue exploring your own sound even when you feel like your out of place – it has taken us 7 years but I think we’ve found something that is us, you know? So it feels as though we are finally starting to make waves after 7 years, and our shows are filling to near capacity every time in club sized rooms. I’m not saying that with intentions of bragging either – I think it’s a testament to what happens when you stand by something you believe in even when others aren’t buying it (or giving it the time of day).
MD: The video for your latest single “Wake Forest” looks like it was shot in one take – was it? How was it shooting in the downtown of your hometown? That had to have been very cool.
VALLEYHILL: Yes it was.
Ok, we stopped once – only because this limo driver couldn’t move his limo for us. But keep that a secret. Only the MD community needs to know, haha. Otherwise it was a one-take, which made editing a breeze. It was super fun doing that video. I’d go into detail about the planning but I’d assuredly get long-winded. I’ll just say this: I had intentions of being cautious and law abiding. I emailed the mayor about street closures, and he pointed me to the next person, and they to the next, and finally I realized we just needed to shoot the video and take our chance…ask for forgiveness later. It’s been the coolest thing we’ve done by far, because it created a connection point with people in this city. The video has gotten us on radio and TV here, and has brought tons of new people to know our group, which has been a blessing.
VALLEYHILL “Wake Forest” (Offical Video)
MD: Your latest EP “Solarity” – talk a bit about that.
VALLEYHILL: It was a game time decision. We had this bank of songs building up, and through a couple of meetings we decided there was never going to be a perfect way of releasing them (reaching out to industry people just wasn’t working). So one of us had the idea of grouping a couple of the happiest, most summertime feeling tracks into an EP and release it. Come to think of it I’m certain Wake Forest was the spark for this EP idea. I had written it in less than 2 days, and showed it to Matt Bump (guitarist/production genius). I told him I wanted to release it this summer regardless of whether it was my own thing or VALLEYHILL; and he was like, “Hey, if you want a summer time feel, you should play that on ukulele.” And my response was, “Great idea. I don’t have a ukulele. And I don’t know how to play one either.” So we went and bought one that day and started tracking it; we quickly realized how it was going to fit into this next release idea, and the song was recorded/mixed/mastered in less than 3 weeks. We built the rest of the EP around that track and suddenly we had ourselves the Solarity EP (I’m pretty sure Matt made that word up too).
MD: One thing I love about your music is the amount of layers that come and go throughout the songs. What’s the process with your production – do you all collaborate or does one person in the band handle most of that?
VALLEYHILL: Thanks for the kind words on that. We take each song as it’s own. For years we’ve tried to think of a good/consistent system; but have realized the impossibility of this framework. So for us, the songs are individual pieces of artwork – and the production process varies each time. Usually Matt or myself will build the framework for a song, sometimes even the bare bones, and then it just rolls from there. One thing is consistent – and that is that I’m always amazed at how these things come together. It’s such an indescribable process.
MD: How would you explain your sound in 5 words?
VALLEYHILL: I want to quote Dwight from The Office so bad right now (hard working, alpha male, jackhammer, merciless, insatiable), unfortunately none of these really describe sound so I’ll go with some different adjectives: Eclectic, Full, Relatable, Cinematic, Soundscapey (not a word but it is now).
MD: What are some artists/bands that you guys draw inspiration from?
VALLEYHILL: This is always such a difficult question – I think for me personally, it’s always changing based on what I’m listening to at the time. For instance, Imagine Dragons opened my eyes to the massiveness of production, The Neighbourhood inspired me to make more beat heavy songs, 80’s songs like Never Gonna Give You Up (yes) and Africa (best song ever) helped me realize the importance of a great hook, and recently, Jon Bellion’s songwriting/production has blown my mind (Listen to “All Time Low” if you have a chance, seriously. Do it).
MD: Any plans for a tour, a new project or anything else exciting?
VALLEYHILL: Our college booking agent has lined up some really great college shows/opportunities coming up and we are trying our hardest to book around these dates in clubs to build a tour. But not having a club-based booking agent has proven difficult at times. Sort of a catch 22: you need a booking agent to get into these clubs, but you need to play these clubs to prove worthwhile to a booking agent. We will keep working at it though; and it’ll certainly pay off. As for projects, we have so many songs in the bank right now, so definitely expect another EP or two by the end of the year. As always, we are most excited about the stuff we haven’t released yet, so please stay tuned!
MD: Time to put yourself in the shoes of a supervisor or brand head. List two songs from your album and what brand/TV show you feel they would align with.
VALLEYHILL: I would say Wake Forest is easily one of the most brandable songs we’ve written based on the custom opportunities we’ve seen out there and the commercials on TV. It’s organic, anthemic, light in spots, building towards a nice full sound in the end (which makes chopping up for commercial sake SUPER easy). I suppose I could see it at one of those points in a movie where the plot frustrates and the two potential love are apart or one of them messes up, and the song plays during the realization of how they truly are meant to be together. Boom. The other song, if we are talking only the Solarity EP, I’d say Adam&Eve or Berlin are totally movie brandable. Any emotional scene or movie trailer spot would suffice. A lot of times we try to write songs that allow us to visualize or paint a picture of the content if that makes sense; almost like you can associate them with motion picture scenes in your head. Licensing is the coolest thing for that reason – pairing the audio and visual effectively; and we’ve been so fortunate to work with you all to put our music with visual content your clients have.
MD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Best of luck in the future & I look forward to much more success with licensing your new tunes!
VALLEYHILL: We are beyond grateful. Take care and thanks again for all you have done and continue to do for our band!
Interview by Rob Lindquist, Music Dealers